Warner Bros. doesn’t officially launch its reboot of the “Mortal Kombat” videogame franchise until Tuesday — but the studio already has a surprise hit on its hands.
Within two days of its bow on April 12, the first installment of Web series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” had already been viewed more than 3.6 million times and had become the most viewed YouTube video in Australia, U.K., Australia, Russia and Sweden at the time. Through Saturday, the webisode had crossed the 5 million mark, based on 3.4 million uniques, on Machinima.com’s YouTube channel, which is exclusively rolling out the series.Machinima, run by chairman and CEO Allen DeBevoise, landed the property’s first online distribution window primarily for the site’s audience of mostly 18- to 34-year-old males who gravitate to its game-related programming.
Site boasted 500 million video views in February, based on 50 million unique visitors.
“You try to put content in the most ideal environment where the audience is,” said Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. Machinima has “a history of reaching gamers. They have an expertise in driving awareness around this kind of content.”
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Ten episodes of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy,” made to resemble a slick big-budget feature, will be produced by Warner Premiere and released through Warner Bros. Digital Distribution over the next two months.
Project’s installments will then be compiled and packaged on a DVD and Blu-ray to be sold at retail, while episodes will also be sold via various online outlets once they’ve played out on Machinima.
“Legacy” is the first of three Web series Warner Digital will unspool online this year, with Bryan Singer’s sci-fier “H+” and McG’s teen spy series “Aim High” still to come.
The live-action Web series was not part of the initial plan when WB put together the marketing campaign for the vidgame relaunch of “Mortal Kombat,” a property Warner Bros. inherited through its acquisition of Midway Games in 2009.
But studio greenlit the project from director Kevin Tancharoen (“Fame”) after the helmer submitted “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” as an unsolicited short film to WB last summer that showcased his bigscreen vision for a potential film adaptation of the game.
Short, which wound up impressing not only execs but a large online audience, featured thesps Jeri Ryan and Michael Jai White, who return for the series, penned by Tancharoen, Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing.
Now the studio hopes the edgy new series and grittier game, developed by NetherRealm Studios and led by “Mortal Kombat”-creator and creative director Ed Boon, will eventually lead to a bigscreen adaptation and relaunch a film franchise whose last outing was New Line’s cartoony “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” in 1997.
“We’re incredibly excited about the creative product,” Gewecke said. “It’s an incredibly powerful, strong and well done piece of filmmaking. It’s a reinterpretation of the franchise in live-action form that we’d like to explore as different concepts and see what approach works best.”